By "bulk cooking", I mean the cook all day, eat for a month kind of cooking.
A Great Savings
Cooking in bulk certainly saves our family a lot in time and money. One round-trip to the bulk-food store is about 70 miles and takes no less than three hours, including shopping time. The cost in gas alone is about $20, so the fewer trips, the better. (This is also a reason why we are shopping more online today using ebates.com).
Since we do live out in the countryside, nearly 100 percent of our meals are prepared at home. When I am not following a bulk cooking routine, I estimate that I spend about 3-6 hours per day--everyday, preparing food and cleaning up afterwards. That's 90-180 hours per month spent preparing and cleaning up after meals! Sticking with a two-week meal plan easily cuts that time in half so I can redeem that it for other equally important areas of our lives.
Sticking With It
I haven't always cooked in bulk. Honestly, I have trouble sticking with the routine because it really does take all day (or half a day for a two-week plan) and I am not naturally disciplined to stick with it. But, I can handle planning for, shopping for, and preparing meals for two weeks at a time. I'm inspired by the savings in time and money, so I've already blocked out on the family calendar the days on which I'll plan, shop, and cook. Note: If you decide to give bulk cooking a try (also known as freezer meals), remember to set aside three days if you are going to prepare a month's worth of meals. You can probably complete the process in a day if you're planning for two weeks and live close-in to shopping.
Dinner For Two Weeks: $53 (Or $68 with Gas)
This time, I focused on creating beef-based meals because our freezers are still stocked with chickens we raised in the fall. Using 6.6 pounds of lean ground beef I prepared the following main dishes that should carry us through at least 12 dinners:
- Sloppy Joe Meat Sauce, 6 servings
- Texas-Style Chili, 12 servings
- Shepherd's Pie Casserole, 12 servings
- Spaghetti Pie Bake, 6 servings
- Pasta Meat Sauce, 12 servings
Food cost: $53 (This amount represents the cost of ingredients I did not already have in the pantry.)
Gas costs: $15 approximately
Cooking Time: 5 hours
Travel and shopping time: 3 hours
Planning time: about 1 hour since I use a book in which the planning has been done for me.
Tips Before You Begin
Find a cooking on bulk cookbook you like. If you decide to give cooking in bulk a try, planning is the key to success. I use a bulk cooking recipe book that I've had for years. Why sit down to do all that figuring when it's been done already? "Frozen Assets" is the title of the book I'm using now. But, I know there are many good resources out there. Find one you like.
Clear your schedule for the day and let the family know you'll be busy cooking all day. You won't have time to do much else.
Before you shop, make sure you have plenty of suitable food storage containers (freezer quality) as well as freezer space. Ziplock freezer bags in one gallon and quart size work well for sauces. You can freeze them flat then stack them.
Labeling and dating your "frozen assets" is also important. Don't overlook this step thinking that you'll remember what it is. You won't.
Assign the meals to a calendar so everyone knows what you will be eating each night. A meal calendar serves as a reminder to me too so I can put together simple sides dishes, like breads and fresh vegetables.
Time to get busy cooking! Have fun and God bless.
What are your tips for streamlining the bulk cooking process? Can you help us save more money and more time? Please share what works for you.